Pittsburgh • The Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins have been stellar at home this season and unbeatable in shootouts for two years.
The New York Rangers brushed all that aside and played well enough to head into the Olympic break on a winning note.
Brad Richards and Mats Zuccarello scored in a shootout, and the Rangers beat Pittsburgh 4-3 on Friday night to hand the Penguins a rare loss in the tiebreaker.
“We deserved this win with the way that we played the whole game,” said New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped two of three shots he faced in the shootout. “I don’t know if it was desperation, but we understood how important this game was. We have a long break here and you definitely want to end it the right way.”
Benoit Pouliot scored twice in regulation for the Rangers, who bounced back from a home loss to Edmonton the night before and won for the fifth time in six games.
The Penguins had won all four of their previous shootouts this season and 14 of the past 15 overall. Their most recent loss was two years ago to the day against Montreal.
“It’s not something that happens very often with our group — our shooters and [Marc-Andre Fleury] in net,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said. “But Henrik is almost as good, and was tonight.”
Zuccarello, the second New York shooter in the tiebreaker, tucked a backhand under the pads of Fleury — who had not allowed a shootout goal all season. Evgeni Malkin beat Lundqvist to extend the game before Richards flipped a shot past Fleury to end it.
Lundqvist made 26 saves, running his winning streak to five games.
“We played a real solid game,” Richards said. “We played hard. They’re going to get goals sometimes, that stuff happens, but we gave ourselves a chance to win.”
James Neal tied it for Pittsburgh with 2:56 left in regulation. It was Neal’s 20th goal of the season and third in three games.
Olli Maatta and Malkin also scored for the Penguins, who lead second-place New York by 16 points in the Metropolitan Division.
The final game day before the Olympic break for both teams began on a somewhat somber note when the Penguins announced that Kris Letang will be out at least six weeks because of a stroke. Letang, who has been put on blood thinners, also was found to have a small hole in his heart.
Devils 2, Oilers 1 (OT) • New Jersey defenseman Jon Merrill scored his first NHL goal 2:34 into overtime against visiting Edmonton.